A History of the YSA

In 2008, in the wake of a devastating string of youth suicides the Anne Arundel County Partnership for Children, Youth & Families (AACPCYF) spearheaded the founding of a community-based collaborative of citizens, county agencies and other child-serving organizations to address this issue on a broad scale. This group, now known as the Youth Suicide Awareness (YSA) Action Team, meets monthly and is over 100 individuals strong with representation from over 20 county and community agencies and organizations. 

In 2009 the YSA (through the Mental Health Agency) was awarded a comprehensive three year, multi-level grant called the Garret Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant.  With effective leadership, cooperative relationships and a strong vision, the YSA utilized these funds to tackle the issue of suicide awareness and prevention in profound and meaningful ways. In the schools, the AACPS health curriculum has been updated with an  effective suicide prevention program called “Lifelines”. Through  this new curriculum  we can better educate our youth on mental health, mental wellness and suicide prevention. A partnership between the AACPS guidance department and Lifetouch also provided a listing of emergency phone numbers on the back of every child’s school ID card.  Each of the county’s twelve high schools also received a “mini grant” each year for outreach initiatives that could be tailored to the unique needs of their community and student population.

In addition, the YSA has implemented trainings of the QPR model throughout the County. QPR - "Question, Persuade, Refer" - is a simple but effective “gatekeeper” training that teaches people how to recognize the signs and risk factors of suicidal ideation, open a dialog with a person in crisis, and get them into the hands of a mental health professional. To date, nearly 20,000 people – including parents,  coaches, social workers, community groups, and all public school employees – have received this training.  In 2012 the YSA received both a State of Maryland Governor’s Citation and a Certificate of Recognition from the Anne Arundel County Board of Education for all of our suicide awareness and prevention efforts over the last four years.

 Despite the end of the GLS grant in June 2012, the YSA is going strong with a myriad of initiatives planned for the coming months and years including an expansion of the QPR training initiative, CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) training for YSA members, and our new YSA website. Most importantly, we're looking at new ways we can work collaboratively to analyze and predict the confluence of factors associated with violence and suicide, reduce the risk of violence and suicide through intervention and early identification, and position our County as a pioneer in the field of suicide prevention.